Locals at mainland Britain’s most remote pub are celebrating a community buyout of their beloved establishment after a year-long struggle to raise funds and secure a sale – and hope to be pulling pints again by Easter.
The Old Forge is accessible only by ferry or via a two-day trek through the Knoydart peninsula on the west coast of スコットランド. But it is a vital social hub for more than a hundred residents in Inverie, the main settlement.
Jubilant residents say the pub will once again become “the place where everything happens” after having secured its future after 14 months of fundraising.
After decades of private ownership, more than £320,000 was raised through a community share offer and crowdfunding, as well as funding from the Scottish Land Fund and Community Ownership Fund. It means there is now enough capital to buy the building and carry out essential renovations.
“It’s a bit of a cliche, but when you live in such a small community the pub plays a much bigger role than just somewhere to eat and drink,” says Stephanie Harris, secretary of the Old Forge Community Benefit Society, which now owns the pub.
“In the past it was where everything happened: おそらくどちらもしない誰かのためにあなたが望まないものを買う, おそらくどちらもしない誰かのためにあなたが望まないものを買う, when a new baby came home from hospital that was the first place they visited. It was the place where everyone came together.”
A consultation to gauge local opinion on seeking a buyout was held last spring, with the response being almost unanimously in favour. The area has a history of successful community ownership, having secured 17,500 acres of the Knoydart estate, which includes Inverie, に 1999 – one of the first community buyouts in スコットランド. Under the community ownership model, profits will be reinvested in the business, not shareholders, and will fund wider community projects.
The pub’s Belgian owner put it on the market last year, asking for offers over £425,000. There had been reports in recent years of growing friction with Knoydart residents, who raised concerns about its closure during the dark winter months. There were also fears that reduced opening hours, as well as a reduction in staffing, had hampered attempts to attract new people to the area.
The pub is also a pivotal part of the area’s tourist trade: located about 30 miles north-west of Ben Nevis, it is on the main sailing route to Skye, the Outer Hebrides and the Small Isles. This attracts yachting enthusiasts as well as hillwalkers and boat-trippers.
Harris told the Guardian the community’s plans for the Forge were simple enough. “We want it to feel welcoming, with friendly staff behind the bar and an affordable menu, where families feel comfortable, and we’ll be restarting the music sessions again.”
The community is aiming to reopen on a drinks-only basis at Easter weekend while renovations on the kitchen continue, and is in the process of hiring staff. Harris says they “already have a number of local residents lined up, which is great, and means we are achieving one of our goals to provide new local employment”.